I was never one of those girls who had visions of her wedding from the time she was young. It's not that I didn't want to get married - I just had no big expectations of what it would all look like when I eventually (hopefully) did. So I found myself at a bit of a loss last spring when, after several incredible months of dating and the sweetest proposal, there was suddenly an entire wedding to plan from scratch. My lovely fiancé, Sina, and I had no idea where to begin! We knew we wanted to get married in Toronto, where we both grew up and where most of our families are. But we quickly realized that this would be an expensive proposition and neither of us wanted to break the bank on one day of our lives! So we started looking into less traditional venues and it wasn't long before we came across the most perfect little place we could have hoped for: Artscape Gibraltar Point, on the Toronto Islands.
Enjoying the beach at Artscape on one of our planning trips in June
Formerly the Island residents' public school, this facility is now home to several artists studios and residences, with two larger halls and a couple of huge lawns for events just like ours. When you rent out the event space, a portion of your payment goes towards subsidizing the artists' studios, and the whole place is like an idyllic little community in a hidden away corner of the world. Every single trip there during the planning process felt like a mini-getaway, and once we were there, I couldn't help feeling like I was 12 years old and at summer camp, reliving some of the most perfect moments of my life. And all of the staff we worked with were absolutely lovely - in particular Danielle, Samantha, and Lisa, but there were also so many other smiling faces that greeted us and offered to lend us a hand throughout. It really is a magical place.
Artscape Gibraltar Point
Once the venue was booked, we realized that we really wanted the relaxed, natural feel of the place to permeate all the rest of our plans. It felt very representative of our personalities too, both as individuals and as a couple, so it was a great basis for all the rest of our plans. We kept everything extremely simple - Sina coined our theme as "Homegrown", and all of the plans we made were held to that standard. The only things we really concerned ourselves with were: having a very simple civil ceremony; sharing a delicious and ethical dinner with all of our guests; and spending a good chunk of the evening dancing!
Our catering was all done by The Island Café, an adorable eatery by the Ward's Island municipal ferry docks. The Café is surrounded by veggie and flower gardens, from which came many of the ingredients for the delicious meals we selected. Our wildflower floral arrangements as well as our decadent three-tiered chocolate cake were all made by Maura, one of the owners of the Café, and we also delegated the table settings to them. Throughout the planning process, we gave the Café staff minimal instructions - we trusted them to make everything sweet, beautiful and delicious, and they did not disappoint. As an aside: I wish I'd realized ahead of time that I would have three giant trays of leftover cake all to myself after the wedding - it would have made all the stress and jitters so much more bearable! ;)
Table settings and floral arrangements by The Island Cafe
With the venue being so cute and unique, and the table settings taken care of by the caterers, we didn't have much planning to do in terms of décor. But I did happen to come across a photo of a warehouse venue space that had been outfitted with a polkadot paper garland, and as soon as I saw it I knew it would work perfectly with everything we'd planned. So I rounded up a bunch of friends for a couple of evenings, and we put together over 300 feet of garland. It was a TON of cutting, taping and gluing, but I was absolutely delighted with the results. We had enough to hang it from the ceiling of the dining hall as well as along the back wall of the venue's lawn space. I loved that the handiwork of so many of my favourite people surrounded us all - and at the end of the night, I donated the garland to the venue, for anyone else to use at their own event! Well I've gone on for quite some time, but I did want to mention a few more amazing people who really poured their hearts into making our wedding day a success (click their names for links to websites/contact info):
- Melissa of Ding Dong Wedding Decor: Melissa has been an artist in residence at Artscape Gibraltar Point for over four years. She was recommended to us by the venue for assistance with set up and such, but she ended up being indispensable to us during the planning process and especially for the entire day of our wedding. I don't know what we would have done without her! If you're planning an event at this venue, I highly, highly recommend you get in touch with her - she is lovely and so incredibly helpful, resourceful, and reliable!
- Arran Liddel, Officiant: Neither Sina nor I are comfortable with pomp and ceremony, so for our wedding we wanted a very simple, non-denominational civil ceremony, and Arran was extremely accommodating and flexible with us. He was straightforward and easy to work with, and in general he is obviously a very kind and genuine person. It helped ease our jitters to have such a calming presence with us!
- Scott Murdoch, Photographer: I cannot say enough good things about Scott! He is so kind, personable, and hilarious - and he moves like a ninja with his camera, capturing precious images that really get to the heart of his subjects. Sina and I are both a bit camera shy, but he helped us to relax and just enjoy the little moments of our wedding day even as it flew by. I have a strong feeling Scott is going to be there to photograph many future life events for us, too! ;)
- Matt Cully, Deejay: Being pretty introverted, I don't have very extensive knowledge about nightlife in the city. So when Melissa (of Ding Dong Wedding Decor, above!) referred us to Matt, we had no idea we were hiring a beloved Toronto deejay. Nearly everyone we told about him had great things to say about Chronologic, a dance party he's been hosting for over nine years! He was also great to work with - very easy going while still being professional and thorough - and his music kept everyone dancing the whole night. We had rave reviews (hah - no pun intended!) about his music from many of our guests.
If you'd like, you can check back in a few weeks - I'll upload some more photos as they become available. And feel free to leave a comment with any questions you might have about the venue or any of the folks we worked with - I'd be happy to respond! :)